History honors for St. John Neumann students

Two students at St. John Neumann School in Farragut who created a documentary on desegregation of Tennessee schools won first-place honors in a state competition and advanced to a national competition in Maryland.

Kaylie Pomerantz and Laila Stempkowski created a documentary titled “Exploration of Tennessee’s Journey to Desegregate Schools and Struggles Encountered Along the Way.” Kaylie, who attends All Saints Church, and Laila, who attends St. John Neumann Church, placed first in the state in the junior group documentary category.

They interviewed a teacher who was involved in school integration and Bobby Cain, who was one of the “Clinton Twelve,” the first black students to attend Clinton High School following the historic U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education and a subsequent court order by federal Judge Robert Taylor to desegregate Clinton High School. The courts’ decisions resulted in protests and some violence, and prompted the deployment of Tennessee National Guard troops in Clinton to protect the “Clinton Twelve” and maintain peace.

Additionally, Laila and Kaylie received the special award “Best Project in African-American History” sponsored by the Planning Committee of the Nashville Conference on African-American History and Culture. The girls advanced to a national competition in College Park, Md.

To qualify for the state contest, students had to win at the district contest in March. Kaylie and Laila won a special award at the district contest, too. They received the East Tennessee History Award presented by Randy and Jenny Boyd. Altogether, the girls have earned $650 in cash prizes.

St. John Neumann School had two groups of students compete at the state contest of National History Day in Nashville on April 9. This year’s theme was “Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in History.”

St. John Neumann students Chase Fuller, Max Vanderhoofven, Nicklaus Iverson, Nicholas Renfree, and Sam Sompayrac represented another group that created a website called “The French Resistance of World War II.” A highlight of their research was interviewing the grandson of a French Resistance fighter. ■

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